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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My first full-class lesson in a Spanish school

            Last Thursday, I taught my first full-class lesson at Colegio Highlands Los Fresnos in Madrid, Spain. The week prior, I had observed my cooperating teacher’s lesson on verbs in the simple past and the past continuous, so at the end of the lesson I approached her and asked if I would be able to teach the following week’s lesson. She was very excited that I was eager to teach something to the full class and asked if I would introduce the present perfect. In order to plan she gave me a copy of the textbook material on the subject, but she told me that I had the freedom to teach the lesson however I wanted to.
            Colegio Highlands is a bilingual school where the students take half of their classes in English and the other half in Spanish. Many of the students have a very high proficiency in English, but they still struggle a lot with verb tenses, especially in spoken English. It took me a while to think of how would be the best way to introduce this subject matter to the students, especially how to differentiate between when to use the simple past, the continuous past, and the present perfect because all three are used to express actions that already happened. I decided upon doing an activity where I ask the class “Have you ever…?” questions to get them warmed up and thinking about the present perfect and then asked “When did you…?” questions to get them thinking about when you use present perfect and when you use past simple/continuous. Next, I reviewed how you form the present perfect and what some of the irregular verbs are in the past participle. Finally, I created a worksheet where the students got in pairs and interviewed each other on what they have done and when they have done it. The worksheet was set up with a verb in the infinitive and then an action and the students had to make their own questions and answer the questions using present perfect and past simple.  I thought this would be especially good for the students because the activity had them speaking out loud and also writing down their work. At the end of the lesson, we went over all of the verbs together as a group so that we could check in and make sure everyone was conjugating the verbs correctly and understanding the differences among the verb tenses.
            Overall, I thought this lesson went really well. The fifth grade boys often have a lot of difficulty staying on task and paying attention during class, but I think that I managed to keep the lesson fun and interactive enough that they were interested in what we were doing. Also, although many of the fifth grade boys have a high proficiency with English, many others lack the confidence to speak out loud in front of their peers. I tried to keep all of the students engaged and participating so that no one was left behind in the lesson. I think the students came out of the lesson having a good, basic understanding of how to make the present perfect and when to use it and that was exactly the goal of the lesson, as it was an introduction to a new verb tense.
            As always, there were some things that I think I did really well in this lesson and other things that I can definitely improve upon. Something I think I did well was stopping throughout the “lecture” part of the lesson to check in with the students and see how well they were following what I was saying. I did this in a few different ways: by having students answer questions, by having students explain different concepts to me, and also by simply having them give me a “thumbs up” if they understand, a “thumbs to the side” if they are iffy on the subject matter and a “thumbs down” if they didn’t get it. If there were students with “thumbs to the side” or “thumbs down” I always went back to re-explain the material to make sure that they understood it better. Something I think I could improve on was explaining the instructions to the activity better before they entered into their pairs. I gave a brief introduction to the activity, but many of them were confused and needed me to go over what they needed to do again. Next time, I will be very explicit about the instructions and give them a specific example before having them begin their group work.

            Overall I really enjoyed teaching this lesson and it felt great to be back teaching in front of a full class. I took a lot away from teaching this lesson and it was really interesting to see how ELL understood a grammar lesson. It was a wonderful experience and it made me excited to teach more full-class lessons!

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